In the years Before Covid, Before the Credit Crunch and even before Punk, there was the summer of 1973: the time when we young boys would skive off PE lessons, be oblivious to girls and the state of the nation and muse: what lies beyond Watford?
Fast forward through the next 50 years and whilst the names and faces, the times and places may differ from continent to continent and from generation to generation, what binds us all, wherever we are in our world, are the big existential questions we all face as we grow up: who am I? Where am I from? Where am I going? What does my future hold? What’s just around that corner?
Rick Hoegberg’s book, Wild Guesses and Dreams is set within the comforting rural and fading industrial landscapes of the British Canal system of the early 1970s. It charts the unsteady courses that Rick and his chums navigate to answer these questions which they do by building a small cabin cruiser, Zehranadilla, and then setting out on various intrepid adventures, ostensibly to ask, what lies beyond Watford?
Hoegberg retells many charming and alarming incidents from the voyages of Zehranadilla, and deftly paints what life was like in the not so fast lane for the lads and lasses in those halcyon 70s days when the oil crisis and national strikes were just whispers in the wind, to be given no more consideration than the question of where the next beer was coming from.
But more than just a youthful travelogue revolving around copious underage drinking, nautical mechanical challenges and fending off hostile swans, the book also explores in its own wistful way how friendships grow and fade and how young people can develop agency and begin to control their own destiny in a world which is so easily disrupted by adults: whether they be well meaning parents, obsessively disciplinarian teachers or canal workers intent on doing no more, no less than their jobs are worth.
By now, we young people of Hoegberg’s generation are reaching the age – if we’ve survived – where we’re asking ourselves, what did we do with our time then? Did it enable us to find out who we were, where we were going and what was just around our corners? Or did we let those moments slip by, ignorant to the opportunities that life presented to us sometimes from the most unexpected directions?
A deceptively innocent exploration of the questions Hoegberg and his school chums asked of themselves in those BC times, Wild Guesses and Dreams prompts us all to understand our pasts better to ensure the young people we see growing up before us are better able to answer those questions for themselves.
Our BC Years are soon turning into their LWC (Living with Covid) Years and they will all need all the help they can get to prepare for what’s behind them, in front of them and around those increasingly threatening corners.
Wild Guesses and Dreams is available on Amazon here.